‘Asthma is a killer – it took away my miracle daughter’

Ten-year-old girl who died from asthma

Lisa Dennis is looking at photos of her daughter Olivia – a blonde girl with a radiant smile.

These are special moments, frozen in time. Olivia died four years ago, aged 10, after having an asthma attack.

Her parents did not even know their gymnastics-loving daughter had the condition.

But Olivia is not the only child to lose their life to asthma.

According to the latest data for England and Wales, 37 children and teenagers died from the disease in 2014.

The figure has risen over the past five years. But many of these deaths are thought to be preventable.

Lisa vividly remembers the night Olivia died. It was a bitterly cold night, and they were at home in Kent.

Lisa, who is married and has a younger son, told BBC News: “We’d tried so long to have children, and when she came along, it was just a miracle for us.

“Olivia was a really special, beautiful girl.

“That night, she was on all fours on the bed – and struggling to breathe.

“She collapsed onto the floor. I tried CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation], but unfortunately it didn’t work.


“I’ll never forget being at the hospital and the consultant asking us if Olivia was asthmatic.

“I said, ‘No, but she has an inhaler.’ He said to us there and then, ‘Your daughter is asthmatic.'”

Lisa’s ongoing grief is compounded by her frustration about what she says is a lack of awareness of asthma.

She had been given an inhaler for an allergy, but Lisa says the word “asthma” was never mentioned to the family, and the medicine was issued by repeat prescription.


  • Asthma is a common but unpredictable illness
  • It affects the airways and can lead to shortness of breath, coughing and a tight feeling in the chest
  • One in 11 children is affected
  • Inhalers need to be used regularly and effectively
  • The blue inhalers provide relief during an attack, while the brown ones are for more regular use to prevent flare-ups
  • Steroids via an inhaler reduce the inflammation from asthma
  • The UK has some of the highest asthma death rates in Europe

The feeling is shared by Dr Satish Rao, from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, who runs an NHS service in the West Midlands for difficult asthma cases.

He said: “One of the biggest frustrations for us is the complacency among healthcare professionals about asthma in children and young people.

“We have struggled to convince professionals that asthma is a serious illness, and that patients can die from a severe attack.

“It’s probably because it’s a common illness, and quite often we hear staff saying, ‘Oh, it’s just asthma.'”

Dr Rao believes many deaths could be prevented by better information about when to seek medical help.

And he is aware of 16 cases in his region where schools have to work very closely with families and give them extra support to make sure the children keep their condition under control.

The number of child asthma deaths has risen steadily from 17 in 2010 to 37 in 2014.

Portsmouth GP Dr Andy Whittamore, who is also Asthma UK’s clinical lead, says it can be difficult to get young patients to adhere to taking their medicine.

He said: “With children particularly, there’s lots of fear about the medicine itself – and from their parents too.

“Steroids have got a bad press because of abuse by bodybuilders and doping in the Olympics.

“But the doses we give are in very low levels – and if taken correctly, they only go directly into the lungs.”

These misconceptions can be fuelled by stigma, with asthmatic children in particular not wanting to be seen as weak or inferior.

Asthma UK has even found that teenagers sometimes shied away from using inhalers because they thought their shape resembled that of sex toys.

Bereaved mother Lisa believes much more can be done.

She said: “Everyone needs to look at their children – especially anyone with an inhaler – because asthma is a killer.

“And I think doctors need to recognise that and make families aware because this is serious, desperately serious.”

Lisa wants to see awareness posters in GP surgeries, more regular reviews and plans for young asthma patients, and an improved inhaler design so the actual device contains advice for bystanders helping with an attack.

These are simple measures, which could help save lives.

Danger map reveals health threat zone

Danger map

South America is a hotbed of potential viruses that could be the next major threat to the world’s health, according to “danger maps”.

The EcoHealth Alliance in New York looked at mammals, the viruses they harbour and how they come into contact with people.

It revealed bats carry more potential threats than other mammals.

The researchers hope the knowledge could be used to prevent the next HIV, Ebola or flu.

Some of the most worrying infections have made the jump from animals to people – the world’s largest Ebola outbreak while HIV came from chimpanzees.


The researchers’ challenge – and it was far from easy – was to predict from where the next could emerge.

They looked at all 586 viruses known to infect 754 species of mammal. This included 188 zoonotic infections – those that have infected both humans and other mammals.

But they also knew some species had been studied in incredible detail while others had been practically ignored.

So the researchers used the information they did know to fill the gaps in their knowledge and estimate which species were harbouring viruses with the potential to infect people.

The study, published in the journal Nature, predicts 17 zoonotic infections in every species of bat and 10 in every species of primate and rodent.

The team then mapped the ranges of species and the infections they carry to work out where the world’s danger zones are.



The threat from rodents was again global, but with a concentration in South America.

Dr Kevin Olival, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: “The missing hotspots are different for different groups of mammals in different parts of the world, but the bat signal overwhelms some of the others.

“But I’m not scared of bats, it’s not the bat’s fault.”

The researchers hope their maps will help the world prepare for the next infection that makes the jump.

Dr Olival added: “Our take-home message is these diseases are emerging because of the human impact on the environment. Our answer is minimise our contact with wildlife, including through hunting and habitat destruction.”

James Lloyd-Smith. from the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “Although most pandemics are zoonoses, most zoonoses do not cause pandemics.

“[The] predictions are best used to prioritise research and viral surveillance efforts, not to drive specific policy decisions.”

The researchers’ next project will look at birds which are another source of zoonotic infections such as avian flu.

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Ebola virus burial teams may have ‘saved thousands of lives’

Ebola burial team in Freetown, Sierra Leone (file picture)

They were ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extremely dangerous times.

Now new research suggests Red Cross volunteers who helped bury most of the bodies of Ebola victims in West Africa could have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease.

More than 28,000 people were infected with Ebola in 2014-2015. Of those, 11,310 people died.

The worst affected countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A major part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. The bodies of victims were particularly toxic.

Community funerals, where people helped wash the bodies of their loved ones, contributed to so many people becoming infected in the earlier stages of the outbreak.



Within months, the epidemic had become the worst public health emergency of modern times.

The study, , used statistical modelling to measure the impact of the Red Cross safe and dignified burial programme.

Researchers focussed on 45 unsafe community burials and the 310 people who were identified as having had contact with the infected bodies. They found, on average, just over two people went on to develop Ebola for every unsafe community burial that took place.

The bigger risk was to those who cared for a loved one with Ebola before their death. Researchers found many more infections could have been prevented if the sick were treated in hospital rather than by their families and communities.

However, using these estimates, the study suggested safe and dignified burials by Red Cross volunteers prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola.

The authors said these are conservative estimates.

They highlighted a number of limitations in the study, including the challenges of collecting very personal and sensitive information about funerals, and the length of time between when some of the burials took place and when the data was collected.

Hundreds of paid volunteers took on the grim task of collecting bodies from people’s homes in full personal protective gear, while also having to manage the grieving families and communities.



They were ordinary West Africans, such as teachers and college students. Many carried out the relentless and dangerous work for months.

Some were stigmatised in their communities, because people became scared they might bring the virus home with them.

In reality, they were helping to stem world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak.

“It was very difficult work,” said Red Cross volunteer Mohamed Kamara who I spent a day with as he collected bodies in Sierra Leone in 2014.

“It’s good news that people realise the impact of what we did to help end the transmission of Ebola,” he said while reacting to the findings of the study from the capital Freetown.

“Some people didn’t even want to come near us at that time.

“But the team we worked with helped give us the courage to do this important work… and we ended this war.”


  • Teams managed over 47,000 burials
  • Carried out more than 50% of all burials during the outbreak
  • All deaths at home were presumed to be Ebola
  • About 1,500 Red Cross volunteers involved in burials


Ebola virus burial teams ‘saved thousands of lives’

Ebola burial team in Freetown, Sierra Leone (file picture)

They were ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extremely dangerous times.

Now new research suggests Red Cross volunteers who helped bury most of the bodies of Ebola victims in West Africa could have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease.

More than 28,000 people were infected with Ebola in 2014-2015. Of those, 11,310 people died.

The worst affected countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A major part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. The bodies of victims were particularly toxic.

Community funerals, where people helped wash the bodies of their loved ones, contributed to so many people becoming infected in the earlier stages of the outbreak.



Within months, the epidemic had become the worst public health emergency of modern times.

The study, , used statistical modelling to measure the impact of the Red Cross safe and dignified burial programme.

Researchers focussed on 45 unsafe community burials and the 310 people who were identified as having had contact with the infected bodies. They found, on average, just over two people went on to develop Ebola for every unsafe community burial that took place.

The bigger risk was to those who cared for a loved one with Ebola before their death. Researchers found many more infections could have been prevented if the sick were treated in hospital rather than by their families and communities.

However, using these estimates, the study suggested safe and dignified burials by Red Cross volunteers prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola.

The authors said these are conservative estimates.

They highlighted a number of limitations in the study, including the challenges of collecting very personal and sensitive information about funerals, and the length of time between when some of the burials took place and when the data was collected.

Hundreds of paid volunteers took on the grim task of collecting bodies from people’s homes in full personal protective gear, while also having to manage the grieving families and communities.



They were ordinary West Africans, such as teachers and college students. Many carried out the relentless and dangerous work for months.

Some were stigmatised in their communities, because people became scared they might bring the virus home with them.

In reality, they were helping to stem world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak.

“It was very difficult work,” said Red Cross volunteer Mohamed Kamara who I spent a day with as he collected bodies in Sierra Leone in 2014.

“It’s good news that people realise the impact of what we did to help end the transmission of Ebola,” he said while reacting to the findings of the study from the capital Freetown.

“Some people didn’t even want to come near us at that time.

“But the team we worked with helped give us the courage to do this important work… and we ended this war.”


  • Teams managed over 47,000 burials
  • Carried out more than 50% of all burials during the outbreak
  • All deaths at home were presumed to be Ebola
  • About 1,500 Red Cross volunteers involved in burials


‘Remarkable’ drop in new HIV cases among men

A gay couple in bed

For the first time, new diagnoses of HIV have fallen among men who have sex with men in England, according to data from Public Health England.

They have decreased from 2,060 in 2014-15 to 1,700 in 2015-16, while in London there was an even steeper drop.

PHE said increased testing, fast treatment with HIV therapy and the use of preventative drug Prep have all contributed to the trend.

New HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals have remained stable.

While huge advances have been made in treating HIV/Aids, there has been frustration at a lack of progress in reducing the number of men being diagnosed each year.

New infections in the UK had been stuck at about 3,000 every year in the five years up to 2015.

Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance for Public Health England, said: “What we are seeing is the first downturn of the HIV epidemic in gay men.”

She added: “There is absolutely no reason why we cannot scale that up to further reduce new infections in gay men – and also in all people who may be at risk of HIV in the UK, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality.”

Published in the journal Eurosurveillance, the PHE study looked at data from 200 sexual health clinics in England.

It found that new diagnoses of HIV in gay or bisexual men at five busy London clinics, where Prep is being trialled, had decreased from 880 in 2014-15 to 595 in 2015-16 – a drop of 32%.

And this drop had occurred despite the number of these men being tested in these clinics rising by 50% over the same period.

At 30 other London clinics, new diagnoses fell by just 8%.

And in 191 clinics across England, the drop was about 5%.

Overall, this amounted to a 17% fall in England.

Among heterosexuals, who are not included in the Prep trial, new HIV diagnoses did not fall – staying at about 1,500.

Dr Michael Brady, medical director of Terrence Higgins Trust, said after years of high rates of HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men, such a sharp drop in England was “remarkable”.

“This points towards what can be achieved when we utilise all the weapons in our arsenal against HIV transmission,” he said.


“This includes access to condoms, testing, Prep and diagnosing and treating people as early as possible so they can become uninfectious.”

However, he said, there was no place for complacency.

In England, eight clinics in London and several outside the capital have taken part in a trial of the so-called “game-changer” drug Prep, which is taken by HIV negative people before sex to reduce the chance of getting HIV.

Scotland has announced it will make Prep available on the NHS to people at risk of HIV . And in Wales, the government has decided to start trialling the drug.

But Dr Brady said the drug should be available to all those at risk, as soon as possible, regardless of where they lived.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said: “These are incredibly exciting times for HIV.

“We are on the precipice of an absolute step-change in HIV prevention.”

However, she said, further investment in HIV prevention was under threat.

“Without proper investment in prevention, HIV will remain a significant health inequality.”

First NHS proton beam machine arrives at Christie hospital

Paul Scherrer Institute in Northern Switzerland

The machine that will enable the NHS’s first proton beam therapy (PBT) unit to treat cancer patients will arrive later.

Manchester’s Christie hospital will be the first NHS unit to provide the treatment, meaning patients needing PBT will no longer have to go abroad.

Up to 750 patients will use the new unit due to open in August 2018.

University College London Hospital (UCLH) is due to open its own PBT centre in 2020.

The government has into building the two new NHS centres. Currently, only low-energy treatment is available in the UK .

Last year, the NHS sent 210 patients abroad for PBT – mostly to the US and Switzerland – at a cost of about £114,000 each.

The 90-ton machine – called a cyclotron – weighs more than 11 double-decker buses but is no bigger than a family car.

The building it will sit in has had to be reinforced with 270 separate timber, steel or concrete posts to support the structure.


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Animated graphic comparing traditional radiation treatment with proton beam therapy.

It uses charged particles instead of X-rays to deliver radiotherapy for cancer patients.

The treatment allows high-energy protons to be targeted directly at a tumour, reducing the dose to surrounding tissues and organs.

In general, patients suffer fewer side effects compared with high-energy X-ray treatments.

It can be used to treat spinal cord tumours, sarcomas near the spine or brain, prostate cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and some children’s cancers.

Sources: ,


Erin Birdsey from Northwich, Cheshire, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged six, was sent abroad by the NHS to the US for PBT treatment.

Erin’s mum Rachael, said: “At the age she was… to be able to spare as many healthy brain cells as possible, which [PBT] does, it makes such a difference.


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Proton beam therapy ‘spares healthy brain cells’

“To have [PBT] so close to home, and be able to receive that treatment and carry on a lot better than taking 10 weeks out of your life and going to another country, that can only be a positive thing.”

The use of PBT was highlighted by the case of five-year-old Ashya King, which when his parents were briefly detained after taking him abroad for the treatment.

Against medical advice in Southampton, they took Ashya – who had a brain tumour – to receive PBT treatment in the Czech capital of Prague. The NHS ultimately




  • This 90-ton power house is capable of accelerating a proton stream made up of ionized hydrogen gas to two-thirds the speed of light (over 100,000 miles per second).
  • The cyclotron needs to be very cold and uses superconducting magnets cooled by liquid helium -269C and coils of copper wire 30km (almost 19 miles) long.
  • The building sits on 270 separate timber, steel or concrete posts driven into the ground to support the structure.
  • The total tonnage of concrete that will be used for the centre is 48,000 tonnes, the equivalent of two aircraft carriers.
  • The proton beam therapy power station provides enough energy to power the whole of Trafford Park.


Professor Tony Lomax, deputy director of the Paul Scherrer Institute in Northern Switzerland, who is originally from Salford, has advised the NHS on bringing the treatment to the UK.

He said: “Probably for some patients modern radiotherapy is extremely good. But with [PBT] we can take on more complicated tumours and with children we really want to reduce the radiation dose to the normal tissue so I think this is where the technique has a fantastic advantage.”


PBT is also being made available in private clinics in the UK.

Proton Partners International (PPI) in February, and it will be open for PBT early next year.

PPI is also building three more proton beam centres – in Northumberland, Reading and Liverpool.

Chief executive Mike Moran, said: “We will treat NHS, private medical insurance and self-paid patients. The NHS is planning assumptions on 1% of patients who currently receive radiotherapy requiring proton beam therapy, which is 1,500 patients.”

However, Mr Moran said he believes a greater proportion of patients need PBT.

“We’re building a network of centres… It gives patients more choice.”

Social media pressure is linked to cosmetic procedure boom

Woman having botox injection in lips

Young people are turning to cosmetic procedures such as botox and dermal fillers as a result of social media pressure, according to a report.

A study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says government must protect people from an unregulated industry.

The report also condemns makeover apps and online plastic surgery games aimed at children as young as nine.

The authors fear such apps are contributing to growing anxieties around body image.

Much of the cosmetic procedures industry is unregulated so reliable data on its size is hard to come by.

In 2015 one market research company estimated the UK market could be worth as much as £3.6bn.

But there is little doubt it has grown significantly over the past decade.

The report identifies several factors that are encouraging young people in particular to focus on body image.

These include increasing levels of anxiety around appearance, the rise of social media where photos can receive positive or negative ratings and the popularity of celebrity culture, complete with airbrushed images and apparently perfect lifestyles.


Prof Jeanette Edwards, from the University of Manchester, who chaired the council’s inquiry into ethical issues surrounding cosmetic procedures, said some of the evidence around games aimed at younger children had surprised the panel.

“We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including make-over apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine.

“There is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, ‘should’ look.”

The report describes how apps with names such as “Plastic Surgery Princess”, “Little Skin Doctor” and “Pimp My Face” could be contributing to mental health problems in young people.


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Declan Green: ‘You want to show everything you’re doing 24/7’

Prof Edwards also called for cosmetic procedures to be banned for anyone under 18 unless they involve a multi-disciplinary team of specialists, GPs and psychologists.

“Under 18s should not be able to just walk in off the street and have a cosmetic procedure.

“There are legal age limits for having tattoos or using sun beds. Invasive cosmetic procedures should be regulated in a similar way.”

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, said that it had already introduced standards for those performing cosmetic procedures to ensure they work safely and ethically and was developing similar guidelines for surgeons.

“Cosmetic interventions are not without risk, and anyone considering a procedure must have confidence that those carrying it out have the necessary skills and competence to do so safely.

“We hope this certification system will, in time, help set the standard for similar forms of accreditation in different areas of practice, that will provide additional reassurance to patients.”

A government spokesperson also said action had been taken to improve regulation.

But they added: “This report highlights once again that we live in a world where young people are under immense pressure on a daily basis about how they should look – it is ethically wrong for companies to exploit this and offer unnecessary cosmetic procedures to under 18s.”

Kevin Hancock, of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, whose members helped compile the report, said it “voices many of the same concerns” his organisation has.

Century-old Parkinson’s question answered

Scientists say they have found the first direct evidence that the immune system does attack the brain in Parkinson’s disease.

The role of “autoimmunity” was first suggested nearly a century ago, but had not been confirmed.

The discovery, , suggests that drugs to calm the immune system could help manage the disease.

In Parkinson’s the brain is progressively damaged leading to a tremor and difficulty moving.

And at the same time very high levels of the protein accumulate in the brain.

Scientists – at Columbia University Medical Center and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology – analysed the blood of 67 patients with the disease to see if they could find evidence of autoimmunity.

The team discovered that T-cells, a part of your immune system, were launching an assault on the alpha-synuclein.

It means the immune system is recognising alpha-synuclein as a foreign invader such as a bacterium or virus.

It is likely the immune system tries to purge the body of alpha-synuclein and kills brain cells where the alpha-synuclein accumulates.

Prof David Sulzer, one of the researchers from Columbia University, said: “The idea that a malfunctioning immune system contributes to Parkinson’s dates back almost 100 years

“But until now, no one has been able to connect the dots.”

He believes that the study ties in with an another emerging theme in Parkinson’s – .

Prof Sulzer told the BBC News website: “We imagine that T-cells may first identify alpha-synuclein out in periphery, particularly in the nervous system of gut which is not a problem until the T-cells enter the brain.”

Dr Alessandro Sette, from La Jolla, said: “Our findings raise the possibility that an immunotherapy approach could be used to increase the immune system’s tolerance for alpha-synuclein, which could help to ameliorate or prevent worsening symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.”

David Dexter, from the charity Parkinson’s UK, said: “This research lends weight to the radical idea that the condition may involve the immune system becoming confused and damaging our own cells.

“We still need to understand more about how the immune system may be involved in the complex chain of events that contribute to Parkinson’s.

“Ultimately this presents an exciting new avenue to explore to help develop new treatments that may be able to slow or stop the condition in its tracks.”

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Ninth avoidable baby death at NHS trust

parents of Maddison Dawn Wilkins

A ninth avoidable baby death has been uncovered by BBC News at a troubled NHS trust.

Maddison Dawn Wilkins Jackson died in 2013 after staff at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital could not find her mother a bed on the labour ward.

into maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust in April.

The trust says it has apologised to Maddison’s family for her death.

from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says that poor care was responsible for hundreds of babies across the UK either dying in labour or suffering severe brain injuries.

The report’s conclusions appear to chime with the experience of Maddison’s parents.

There had been no hint of anything being wrong when Katie Wilkins went to hospital in February 2013. Her pregnancy had been smooth, and as she was 10 days overdue, she went to the Royal Shrewsbury expecting to be induced.

The labour ward was full, however, so Katie and her partner Dave Jackson were put into a side room.

Initial monitoring indicated their baby was healthy, but the induction didn’t happen due to pressures on the ward. Staff kept telling the couple they would proceed when a bed became available.

“What stuck in my mind, was that plus term, the placenta doesn’t work as well, so I knew time was ticking,” says Dave.

Staff refused the family’s request for Katie’s waters to be broken in the side room, saying there was a risk of infection. After being awake for two days, Katie and Dave feel asleep.

Despite her medical records stating clearly, “Katie reports she is willing to be taken to ward 20 (labour ward) any time overnight”, she remained in the side room for a further 15 hours.


No monitoring took place – either of her or her baby.

The following day, when staff tried to check on Maddison, they realised she had died.

“I can still hear him saying it now, we can’t hear the heartbeat,” says Dave. Immediately, Katie was found a bed and had to give birth to her daughter.

A letter from the trust in July 2013 said: “Sadly we have to conclude that had your induction occurred more timely, Maddison would likely have been born alive.”

“We always wonder what colour eyes Maddie would have,” wonders Dave, “because we never saw her with her eyes open.”

“She was very tall,” says Katie, “so we wonder how big she’d have become.”

The family now want their case to be looked at by NHS Improvement, which is carrying out a review into how the trust investigated baby deaths and other maternity errors.

Maddison’s death is at least the ninth avoidable death at the Shrewsbury and Telford Trust since 2013. Seven of the babies died in a 20-month period between September 2014 and May 2016.

A failure to properly monitor the babies’ heart rates during labour contributed to several of the deaths, an error today’s report from Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has highlighted as being one of the main reasons for errors in labour wards.

In a statement to the BBC, Deidre Fowler, director of nursing at the Shrewsbury and Telford Trust said: “We met with Maddison’s family following her tragic death in 2013 where we expressed how deeply sorry we were for the delay Maddison’s mum experienced in her induction and to offer our sincere condolences.

“Following Maddison’s death we made changes to our practices which have included improving advice for midwives around foetal movement and monitoring in line with national NICE guidelines and how we escalate concerns when women in our care experience delays because our maternity units are busy.

“We shared these improvements with Maddison’s family at that time, but realise this will have offered little comfort to them.”

Queen’s Speech: Ground laid for dropping ‘dementia tax’

Older person

The Queen’s Speech has paved the way for the ditching of the controversial “dementia tax” in England, set out in the Conservative election manifesto.

The value of an individual’s home was to be taken into account for all types of elderly care under the plans.

The two-year government programme set out by the Queen promised reform, but stopped short of making specific pledges on the details.

It said full plans would be published and consulted on at a later date.

Campaigners welcomed the chance to re-think the policy after heavy criticism of it during the election campaign.

Critics said it was unfair as it meant those that needed the most care could face catastrophic costs.

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said a fairer system was “so desperately needed”.

But she added: “The proposals set out in the Conservative Party manifesto were insufficiently thought through and involved a major shift of financial liability on to older people and their families, and there was a lack of clarity as to what they might receive in return which might make such policies fair and worthwhile from their point of view.”

The manifesto outlined a new system for the way older people paid for care in the home and in care homes, amid reports that services were increasingly being rationed.

A number of changes were put forward, including, for the first time, the idea of including the value of an individual’s own home no matter what care they received, which opponents branded a “dementia tax”.

It would have meant people needing expensive care, such as for dementia, could face unlimited costs, with the only protection being that £100,000 of their estate would be left.

However, after days of negative headlines, the – although she did not set out what level the cap would be set at.


A Green Paper is now likely to be published at the end of the year on changes to the social care system.

Government sources said the subsequent commitment to cap costs would be honoured, but no more details would be released at this stage.

One in 10 people faces costs in excess of £100,000 once they reach the age of 65.

Alongside the announcement on social care, the Queen’s Speech also included a promise to introduced a Patient Safety Bill to establish an independent investigation body to look into mistakes.

New mental health laws were also committed to amid concerns the 1983 Mental Health Act is out of date and leading to unnecessary detention of patients in hospital and police cells.